Sunday, May 17, 2015

On the Importance of Ethics in Economics

This is perhaps the most concise explanation for why the notion that people get what they deserve in the free market is absurd. The notion that some people are more "deserving" than others simply does not hold up to any reasonable thinking in light of evidence from psychology, genetics, sociology, or neuroscience.

Noahpinion: I get what you get in ten years, in two days
Now suppose Mike goes to Greg Mankiw and asks: "Dr. Mankiw, why is it right and just that it took me 4% of my entire lifespan to buy this car, with all my heroic efforts and harsh self-denial, when it took that Brad CEO guy less than a day? I put in every bit as much effort as he does, day after day. Why does he deserve to get things with so much less effort than I put in?" 
Dr. Mankiw responds: 
I am more persuaded by the thesis advanced by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz (2008) in their book The Race between Education and Technology. Goldin and Katz argue that skillbiased technological change continually increases the demand for skilled labor. By itself, this force tends to increase the earnings gap between skilled and unskilled workers, thereby increasing inequality...The story of rising inequality, therefore, is not primarily about politics and rent-seeking but rather about supply and demand... 
If Goldin and Katz are right that the broad changes in inequality have driven by the interaction between technology and education...then it would seem an unlikely coincidence that the parallel changes at the top have been driven by something entirely different. Rather, it seems that changes in technology have allowed a small number of highly educated and exceptionally talented individuals to command superstar incomes in ways that were not possible a generation ago. 
"OK," Mike says. "But why, then, is Brad CEO so much more productive than I am? Where does his $30 million productivity come from?" 
Dr. Mankiw responds: 
[T]he intergenerational transmission of income has many causes beyond unequal opportunity. In particular, parents and children share genes, a fact that would lead to intergenerational persistence in income even in a world of equal opportunities. IQ, for example, has been widely studied, and it has a large degree of heritability. Smart parents are more likely to have smart children, and their greater intelligence will be reflected, on average, in higher incomes. Of course, IQ is only one dimension of talent, but it is easy to believe that other dimensions, such as self-control, ability to focus, and interpersonal skills, have a degree of genetic heritability as well. 
"So let me get this straight," Mike says. "Brad deserves to be so much richer than me because of ability he was born with? People who are lucky enough to be born with high skills deserve to be able to get a Civic in half a day, while people who were born with fewer skills deserve to have to slave away for years if they want a Civic?"

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